The AL (B)east, Small Market Success, and the Middling Boston Red Sox

Oliver Henke, Sports Editor

In the American League (AL) East, the Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Rays all compete for the division title. While only one can lead the division, they are all quality, first-place teams. In a feature by MLB Network, it was displayed that as of the beginning of June, if you dispersed the five teams into the other five MLB divisions, all would be in first place. Almost, that is, as the Yankees were percentage points behind the Diamondbacks for first in the National League West. 

At the moment, the Red Sox are in last place in the AL East, but would only be a half-game out of first in the AL Central. This is exacerbated by the fact that the AL East teams arguably have a more difficult schedule than all other MLB teams because of the games they play within their division. However, the growing imbalance between the East and other divisions could also partially be a result of the schedule, which pits division foes against each other 24 fewer times than in previous seasons. 

Despite this, playoff hopes are still alive, and with Adam Duvall and, eventually, Trevor Story on the way back, help is on the way.

It is also remarkable that the team with the best record in baseball, the Rays, as well as the team with the third-best record, the Orioles, play in the AL East. This is mind-boggling not only because of their difficult schedules, but also because the Rays have the fourth lowest payroll in the MLB, and the Orioles have the second-lowest. Meanwhile, the bottom three teams in the division have above average payrolls, with the Yankees having the second highest, the Blue Jays seventh-highest, and the Red Sox 14th. 

This trend of smaller market teams succeeding has not been limited to the AL East, however, as numerous rebuilding efforts have begun yielding results. For example, the Pirates—with the third-lowest payroll—have a .526 win percentage, and the Diamondbacks—with the 10th lowest payroll—are tied with the Dodgers atop the NL West. The teams with the four highest payrolls (Mets, Yankees, Padres, Phillies) have a lower average win percentage than the teams with the four lowest payrolls (Rays, Pirates, Orioles, Athletics). This is despite the Athletics having won only 12 of 60 games this season.

So, where do the Red Sox fit within the grand scheme of Major League Baseball? After an awesome April, yet a miserable May, the Red Sox are around .500. However, as previously discussed, the AL East is a difficult decision, and therefore, the Sox lie definitively in the basement. Despite this, playoff hopes are still alive, and with Adam Duvall and, eventually, Trevor Story on the way back, help is on the way. In addition, the Sox’s pitching has improved during this recent cold spell, although this is not to mention the fact that their offense has sputtered and their defense has been horrendous. All in all, the Red Sox might still have a chance to make a run for the playoffs, though the path to October is getting more polluted as the season wears on.